Traveling Light

Perhaps you remember that guy you once knew,
the one who’d just be there when you were angry or blue.
He had that black hair, eyes of dark brown
and, whenever he’d drop by, he’d flip over your frown.
He went away, traveling dark paths. So did you.
You went your way, he wandered without a clue.
You mightn’t recognize him now, the roads took their tolls,
his hair gone all silver, his eyes sunken holes,
and while the soles of his soul have worn shiny and thin,
there still comes a time when he can pull out a grin.
No, you may not remember him since your paths split apart,
but he sometimes smiles, even after all the hard miles,
at a picture of young you he thought to pack in his heart.

For Day 10 of NaPoWriMo, I combined prompts calling for a travel poem and a portrait poem. And what’s with this sudden rhyming thing? I shouldn’t go to sleep listening to Dylan, I guess.

With Dreams Inside My Eyes

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I have a bed, my very own.
It’s just my size.
And sometimes I like to sleep alone
with dreams inside my eyes.” ~ Mary Oliver

The doctor says I could go blind,
and for a moment my mind races
in frantic paces where sight
no longer graces my life like
random tones do a composer’s.
But then I realize I’m already seeing
such things in this darkened room.

There’s robin’s vermillion breast
coming to rest from azure above
to green below. And here’s your face,
unburdened by the toll of years,
the paths of tears, inviting yet
another riff on things only I
can see in you. The doctor says
we can arrest the coming darkness,
but what’s already lost
is gone forever.

I thank her and walk outside,
wearing what’s probably an odd grin.
She doesn’t know it’s at night,
with my eyes closed, I see
my life’s places and faces
so clearly. You may
tear away pieces of my sight,
but you’ll never steal my vision.

This piece was inspired by the final line of the first verse Mary Oliver’s Every Dog’s Story suggested my friend Annie Fuller. 

 

A Blog Anniversary and a Writer’s Thanks

 

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The writer at his post

Just received a note from WordPress congratulating me on the 6th Anniversary of this blog, A Thing for Words.

Wow! I’ve been on WordPress for six and on Blogspot for one year before that. That’s seven years of sharing my work with you readers online.

It also means I’ve been walking this second-chance trail for eight years. It’s kinda saved my life, in addition to enriching it for an hour or so a day. Sitting at this desk almost every day with my head down and imagination up (pretension alert!!) breathe some life into a heart and soul that could easily slip back into the dark.

So, if you’re a regular at my joint or not, I thank you for your continued support and encouragement. I hope I’ve added a spoonful or two of light into your days, too.

Dawn, Feb. 11, 2017

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You stir, cough, roll over and peek one-eyed at the clock signaling in garish mini-sunrise that it’s 6:30 AM. Kicking off the covers, you swing to face the wall while your feet search for slippers hidden in the coolness of your bed’s shadow. Scuffs beneath your feet, you shuffle to the window and pull back the curtain just a crack to see the consequences executed by the overnight snow. Eyes blink their reconciliation with the alarming alchemy cosmically metamorphosing the black-smudge base metal of yesterday into the platinum of a new day. Wedding cake duplexes and cupcake SUVs suspended from the clouds by steamy exhalations surround the cul de sac as gray dawn doesn’t so much rise as just happen. Crows calling in cacophonous amity, scratch away the comforting blanket of bedroom quiet. Four inches? Six inches? Does it matter? You still ache from pushing aside Thursday’s storm, so what’s to come when you eventually step into the subarctic day is just another pile of potential, frozen and tossed upon your front step like a million Sunday papers. You crack your back, grab some socks and head downstairs. Weekend’s come and it still feels like Thursday.

Welcome to my shivering, shoveling, sleep-deprived world. And I count myself lucky to be here in it.

It’s Too Late

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It’s not hard for me to imagine,
when imagining’s all I’d do,
what it’s like to be here with myself
instead of back there, when I still had black hair,
deep in my thoughts of you.

My head always crowded with couldas,
my shoulda-filled heart brimming with dreams.
And in between, each make-believe scene,
reality’s not what it seems.

I remember Tapestry’d drone,
in corridors of the girl’s dormitory,
where from every other room, down that hall full of gloom
you’d hear the soundtrack to every second girl’s
stormy story.

Half of them wept in recall
of some boy from the opposite hall,
who left them with heartbroken spirit.
The other half would cry over some fantasy guy,
play Will You Love Me Tomorrow, hoping he’d hear it.

I said to myself,
when I jumped off the shelf,
of a childhood spent safely worrying,
“Don’t live like this, in the staticky hiss
of getting nowhere, yet ever hurrying.”

But the days they flew by
and young me became old I,
in a life ruled by lone circumspection.
I sat here with a pen, too often thinking of then,
a captive of my own retrospection.

Now I try to ignore the what-ifs and maybes,
won’t whine like those coeds, old men and babies.
Unlike the natural women who built Carole’s myth,
I spin Stephen Stills, no more therapy and pills,
ignoring past and future to love the one I’m with.

More nonsense rhyming verse, this time about putting aside getting bogged down in the past and future for living in the present. I used the universal common denominator of love as the tent pole metaphor and memories of my college days to peg it down. Have to admit you’d probably need to be of a certain age to truly “get” this one, but I wrote it from where I am, with a nod to where I’ve been. 

Discovering the Future in My Past

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Once I saw the future as something exciting and totally within my grasp. Nothing could stop me, once I was 10. Then I saw the future as something exciting and probably within my grasp, like that girl in Biology class, once I was 15. When I was 18, once I received that 1-A on my Draft Card, I saw the future as something scary and full of dreams of death and terror in a land halfway around the same world I thought I’d own when I was 10. Once I saw my future in that girl, and that one, or maybe the other, or possibly her, and then I turned 22 and found someone already had found their future in me. When I turned 30, I thought there was little future in my future but nine-to-five and nights spent wondering where my future went while I stared at the ceiling with a spirit peened over by my own hammerheaded darkness. At 55, my future looked quite close, a constricted heartbeat away, until I found two miracles revealed: a heart can heal just as quickly as it breaks and I owned some power in my words to break hearts and heal them, too. When I turned 62, I peered back at a life spent looking at a future I thought remained just beyond arm’s length, like stars upon which childish dreams are hung, bright and tempting—as if we’re human magpies—yet always out of reach. So I looked at my yesterdays and realized the future’s nothing more than a vast plain upon which we stand with nothing to stop us on our way to those 360 degrees of horizon but our own nimbleness of mind and spirit. Oh, and looking at it all like we’re still 10.

Here’s my 300 words worth of a prose poem (maybe) response to my friend Sharyl Fuller’s last Writing Outside the Lines prompt for 2016. It’s that statement at the top of the piece. Hope to have a story for it soon. Thanks, Annie.

This and That About There to Here

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If I was one to believe everything
you all say to me today on face value,
I’m sure I’d swagger, bust my buttons,
and maybe feel right proud to be me.
Instead, I listened to you say
this nice thing and that
about what a good this or that I am,
or this or that I’ve accomplished.
Through the filter of self-doubt,
this is what I heard instead:
That I’ve wasted so much of my life
taking this path or that role,
this course or that job,
making this choice or that mistake.

It’s too late to change now, though.
They all lie behind me. Today,
I value each scar, each lump and dent
I’ve earned in this fun house skull of mine.
I know now what I considered my failures
were the scenery on my swift journey here.
If it looked like the worst of Detroit
or the Pine Ridge Reservation, then I
can say I’ve seen what you’d call
your worst on my way here and the tears
they brought have washed me clean of regret.
I’ll worry about the There ahead when it
becomes the This and That of Tomorrow.

I’ve fought myself, beaten myself brutally, most of my life. I’m only beginning to understand that fact and do something it. But it’s a difficult process. The why of it lies back there in the clouds of exhaust I peek at in the cracked rearview mirror of my memory. I’ve no control over what’s there in the past. In my regret-filled days and nights I would worry more about them because the mirror says they may be closer than they appear. The best I can say about this is that they’re not catching up with me much anymore.